The D800’s burst is limited to 4 fps in full-frame shooting, likely due to file size. The buffer can hold up to 17 of Nikon’s 14-bit lossless RAW files (NEF). Nikon doesn’t state the true capacity of the buffer for JPEGs, cutting off testing at 100 images. But rest assured that with a fast memory card, you can get well over 100 shots in a JPEG burst.
As usual, Nikon’s Matrix evaluative metering does an excellent job, even in difficult scenes. You can definitely confuse it when framing abstract images, but for most portrait and landscape photography it will be right on the money.
The Nikon D800’s pop-up isn’t particularly special as built-in flashes go, but at least the camera has one. (Curiously, Canon still doesn’t include a pop-up flash on the 5D Mark III.) A pop-up lets you trigger off-camera accessory flash units wirelessly—reason enough to want to own one.
D700 shooters—or any advanced Nikon shooter, really—should have no problem transitioning to the D800 from their camera body. But a fair number of buttons have moved around compared to other Nikon models, so you should make a point to familiarize yourself with the body before an important shoot.
You’ll also want to bring a high-capacity memory card with you. Some of the JPEGs we captured were as large as 25MB, and some RAW files topped 65MB. Converting these will either take serious computing power or require more time than you’re accustomed to with your current camera.
The Bottom Line The biggest question to ask yourself about the Nikon D800 is whether you need that many pixels. Don’t get us wrong—the detail in the D800’s images is outstanding. But your hard drives will fill up quite fast if you plan to hold on to RAW files—even quicker if it’s both RAW and JPEGs. If you don’t plan to print extremely large images, the D800 might be more than you need. Still, it’s nice to know you can get a lovely 20x30-inch print at 240 dpi.
Another upside to the huge files is that they allow for much more cropping than we’ve ever been able to do with digital images (medium-format excepted). Caught without a long lens when the space shuttle Enterprise was recently flown over New York City, one of our editors shot using a racked out 24–70mm f/2.8 Nikkor. The image was still sharp and detailed when cropped by about 90 percent.
Still photographers will have to decide whether they really need the D800’s firepower. But if you’re shooting serious video and plan to use an external recorder to capture the HDMI output, you need not think twice about the D800.
IMAGING: 36.3MP effective, FX format (full-frame) CMOS sensor captures images at 7360x4912 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: CF and SD store TIFF, JPEG, NEF RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 100 shots at 4 fps; RAW (14-bit uncompressed), up to 16 shots at 4 fps; TIFF, up to 16 shots at 4 fps.
AF SYSTEM: TTL phase detection with 51 illuminated focus points (15 cross-type); single-shot and continuous AF with 3D focus tracking. AF points can be grouped and selected by area. Tested sensitivity down to EV –2 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
LIVE VIEW: TTL phase-detection or contrast-detection autofocus.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/8000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-, 1/2-, or 1-EV increments); 200,000-cycle rating.
METERING: TTL metering with 91,000-pixel RGB sensor; 3D Matrix (evaluative), centerweighted, and spot (approx. 1.5% of viewfinder). EV 0–20 (ISO 100).
ISO RANGE: Normal, ISO 100–6400 (in 1/3-EV increments); expanded, ISO 50–25,600.
VIDEO: Records at 1920x1080 at 30/24 fps; 1280x720 at 60/30 fps; in H.264 MPEG-4 MOV format; built-in mono microphone; stereo minijack input; uncompressed output via HDMI.
FLASH: Built-in pop-up with iTTL autoflash and wireless control of optional flash units, GN 39 (ISO 100; feet); flash sync to 1/250 sec.
VIEWFINDER:Fixed eye-level pentaprism.
VIEWFINDER TEST: Accuracy, 100% (Excellent); Magnification, 0.7X (Very Good)
LCD: 3-in. TFT with 921,000-dot resolution; 5-step brightness adjustment.
OUTPUT: USB 3.0, mini HDMI video, composite video and analog audio.
BATTERY: Rechargeable EN-EL15 Li-ion, CIPA rating 900 shots (with optical viewfinder).
SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.7x4.8x3.2 in., 2.1 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $3,000, body only; D800E version, $3,300, body only.